Ritter Farm Park winter hike

Winter hiking in Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota? Yes! While Minnesota – or MinneSNOWta – is notorious for its heavy snowfalls and frigid temps, it offers the best hiking in the winter. This post features a list of the best winter hikes in the Twin Cities metro area of Minneapolis and St. Paul.

I’m planning to explore more of my favorite hiking trails within 50 miles of the Twin Cities and on Minnesota’s North Shore this winter. Additionally, many of Minnesota’s 66 state parks offer the best winter hikes in Minnesota. Several are featured in this post of the best winter hikes in Minnesota.

And if hiking is not your thing, you can still enjoy Minnesota in the winter. See my popular post: 90 things to do in Minnesota this winter.



The top-ranked Minnesota winter hiking trails  

Best winter hiking trails in the Twin Cities Minnesota Minneapolis and St. Paul Ritter Farm Park
Ritter Farm Park in Lakeville, Minnesota – one of the best winter hikes in the Twin Cities

Here is a list of the best winter hikes in Minnesota – ranked by distance from the Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP) International Airport.

Winter hiking: Fort Snelling State Park; Bloomington, MN

One of the best places to hike right in the Twin Cities this winter is Fort Snelling State Park in Bloomington, Minn. You’ll find several winter hiking trails, and I especially love Pike Island hiking trail at Fort Snelling State Park. It’s an easy, flat trail along the shores of both the Minnesota and Mississippi River. And eventually ends up where these two rivers meet – called a confluence.

Distance from Twin Cities: Fort Snelling State Park in St. Paul / Bloomington, MN, is conveniently located in the Twin Cities. It’s located two miles from the Minneapolis-St. Paul International (MSP) airport.

Trail length: 3.7 miles

Trail difficulty: Easy

Admission: Minnesota state park admissions is $7 per vehicle per day or $35 for an annual vehicle pass (unlimited visits to all 66 Minnesota state parks and 9 Minnesota recreation areas for 12 months from the month of purchase). Most Minnesota state parks offer groomed winter hiking trails.

Best winter hike on my to-do list: Crosby Farm Regional Park; St. Paul, MN

One of the top-ranked parks in the Twin Cities is Crosby Farm Regional Park in St. Paul, Minnesota. I attempted to hike at Crosby Farm Regional Park this past fall, but it was closed for deer hunting on that day.

So am planning to do a winter hike at Crosby Farm Regional Park soon. Recent reviews on the AllTrails app says that it’s great for snowshoeing and fat-tire biking also. But do caution it’s not well-marked or well-groomed so be careful of erosion and drop-offs. And Slot Canyon at Crosby Farm Regional Park isn’t completely frozen over yet. I’ll share my personal review once I get the opportunity to do my winter hike at Crosby Farm Regional Park.

Distance from Twin Cities: Crosby Farm Regional Park is only 2.5 miles from Minneapolis – St. Paul (MSP) airport.

Trail length: 2.1 miles

Trail difficulty: Moderate

Admission: Admission is free at Crosby Farm Regional Park.

Have you ever seen a slot canyon? One of our favorite family destinations: Lower Antelope Canyon in Page, Arizona.

Frozen waterfall winter hike: Minnehaha Regional Park; Minneapolis, MN

frozen waterfalls in the winter Minnehaha Falls

If you love chasing frozen waterfalls like me, Minnehaha Regional Park is one of the best winter hikes in the Twin Cities, Minnesota. And it’s easy access to see the magical frozen Minnehaha waterfall (a short walk from the parking lot). See my related post: Epic guide to the best frozen waterfalls in Minnesota.

The stairs leading down to the Minnehaha waterfall are typically closed in the winter. However, you can get to the lower level at other access points. And you can hike along Minnehaha Creek or extend your hike to other neighboring parks.

Distance from Twin Cities: Minnehaha Regional Park in Minneapolis is approximately 4 miles from MSP.

Trail length: 2.1 miles

Trail difficulty: Moderate

Admission: Admission to Minnehaha Regional Park in Minneapolis and parking on neighborhood streets is free. You will need to pay for parking in the nearby paid lots

Urban winter hike: Summit Ave historical district; St. Paul, MN

One of my favorite urban walking tours for winter hiking in the Twin Cities is the iconic Summit Ave. The prettiest street in the Twin Cities features 400 historical homes built in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Distance from Twin Cities: The Summit Ave Historical District is within the Twin Cities and 8 miles from the MSP International Airport.

Trail length: 4.5 miles

Trail difficulty: Easy (although some of the paved sidewalks may be uneven, cobblestone, brick, etc.)

Admission: No admission.

Mississippi National River and Recreation Area in Minnesota; Minneapolis, MN

Another favorite urban hiking trail right in the Twin Cities is near Mill Ruins Park in Minneapolis. It’s part of the 72-mile Mississippi River and Recreation Area. This national park also includes state and regional parks (such as Fort Snelling State Park and Minnehaha Regional State Park also mentioned in this post) as well as national wildlife refuges.

Start at the Mill City Museum that faces the Mississippi River. Then hike across the pedestrian Stone Arch Bridge to Father Hennepin State Park. Then take a left to explore the oldest street in Minneapolis – the historic Main Street. You can finish the loop by crossing the Third  Avenue Bridge and return to the Mill City Museum area.

See my related posts: Riverfront disasters walking tour: I-35W Bridge Remembrance Garden and Top 10 walking tours in the Twin Cities – Minneapolis and St. Paul.

Distance from Twin Cities: Mississippi National River and Recreation Areas is located in Minneapolis, approximately 9 miles from MSP.

Trail length: 3.2 miles

Trail difficulty: Easy

Admission: Admission to Mill Ruins Park and most attractions along this trail (other than the Mill City Museum) is free.

Unique winter hike in the Twin Cities: Caponi Art Park; Eagan, MN

One of the coolest winter hikes in the Twin Cities is also a sculpture garden. Located in Eagan, MN, Caponi Art Park, a cool sculpture garden, in Eagan, MN – which is also located in the Minneapolis – St. Paul metro area. This outdoor gallery and sculpture tour is easy and features 30 art exhibits along this winter hike. Surrounded by 60 acres of woods, you can find interpretative signs along the trail as well as an interpretative map on the Caponi Art Park website.

Distance from Twin Cities: Caponi Art Park in Eagan, MN, one of the easiest hiking trails near Minneapolis and St. Paul, is about 10 miles from MSP.

Trail length: 1.4 mile loop

Trail difficulty: Easy

Admission: Admission to the Caponi Art Park is free; however, donations are appreciated.

Best winter hikes in the Twin Cities: Lebanon Hills Regional Park; Eagan, MN 

Best winter hikes trails in the Twin Cities Lebanon Hills Regional Park Minneapolis and St. Paul
Best winter hiking in the Twin Cities – Lebanon Hills Regional Park in Eagan, Minnesota

One of the best winter hikes in the Twin Cities is also the largest park in Dakota County. Located in Eagan, Minnesota (a suburb of Minneapolis and St. Paul), features 15 miles of hiking trails. The more popular hiking trail at Lebanon Hills Regional Park is the 5.3-mile Lebanon Hills Loop. This winter hike takes you around several lakes and wooded areas. You can also snowshoe on groomed trails on on the lake here.

Three women wearing snowshoes on a frozen lake
Lebanon Hills Regional Park in Eagan, Minn. offers the best snowshoe trails in the Twin Cities.

Distance from Twin Cities: Lebanon Hills Regional Park in Eagan, Minn. is located about 10 miles from the Minneapolis – St. Paul (MSP) International Airport..

Trail length: 5.3-mile loop

Trail difficulty: Moderate

Admission: Admission to Lebanon Hills Regional Park in Eagan, MN is free. Snowshoe rentals are available at an extra cost.

Winter wonderland hike in the Twin Cities metro: Ritter Farm Park; Lakeville, Minn.

Ritter Farm Park in Lakeville, Minnesota best winter hikes trail in Twin Cities
Best winter hiking in the Twin Cities: Ritter Farm Park in Lakeville, Minnesota

Ritter Farm Park in Lakeville, Minn. is conveniently located off I-35 in the southern metro of the Twin Cities. It’s one of my favorite winter hikes as it’s within walking distance from my home. I especially love hiking here in the winter right after a fresh snowfall. My husband and I also learned how to X-ski at Ritter Farm Park – a fun way to embrace winter in Minnesota.

Distance from Twin Cities: Ritter Farm Park in Lakeville, MN is located about 20 miles from MSP.

Trail length: 3.2 mile loop

Trail difficulty: Easy with some moderate inclines

Admission: Admission to Ritter Farm Park in Lakeville, MN is free.

Beautiful winter hike views at Spring Lake Park Preserve, MN

If you’re looking for beautiful views on a winter hike, then check out Schaar’s Bluff Trail at the Spring Lake Park Preserve in Hastings, Minn. You’ll capture sweeping views of the longest river in the United States: the Mississippi River.

Did you know the Mississippi River headwaters (where it starts) is located in Minnesota? And that the Mississippi River has lakes? See my related posts: Top things to do at Itasca State Park: Minnesota State Park Challenge and Guide to Frontenac State Park in Minnesota.

Distance from Twin Cities: Spring Lake Park Preserve, MN, located in Hastings, MN, is 22 miles from the MSP International Airport.

Trail length: 2.1 mile loop

Trail difficulty: Easy

Admission: Admission to Spring Lake Park Preserve in Hastings, MN is free.

Easy winter hike in the Twin Cities: Cleary Lake Regional Park; Prior Lake, MN

Cleary Lake Regional Park, Prior Lake, Minnesota best winter hikes trail in Twin Cities
An easy and scenic winter hike in the Twin Cities: Cleary Lake Regional Park in Prior Lake, Minnesota

One of the best and easy winter hikes to get some vitamin D and shake cabin fever is Cleary Lake Regional Park. This gentle 3.35-mile paved trail around Cleary Lake and through the woods in Prior Lake, Minnesota is an easy winter hike. And is a popular dog-friendly winter hiking trail in the Twin Cities. Or if you’re looking for a little adventure, try cross-crossing skiing where you’ll find a few steep ski runs (extra fee to use the ski trails).

Distance from Twin Cities: Cleary Lake Regional Park is located in Prior Lake, MN – 24 miles from the Minneapolis – St. Paul (MSP) International Airport.

Trail length: 3.35-mile loop; you can also connect with the Big Woods Regional Trail for a longer winter hike

Trail difficulty: Easy

Admission: Admission is free at Cleary Lake Regional Park (X-skiing is extra)

Beautiful winter hiking at Afton State Park; Hastings, MN

Minnesota is also home to another beautiful waterway: the St. Croix River. And one of the best winter hikes overlooking the St. Croix River is North River Hiking Trail at Afton State Park in Hastings, Minn. This hiking trail also takes you alongside the river and then eventually to a beautiful view. See my related guide to Afton State Park in Minnesota.  

Distance from Twin Cities: Afton State Park in Hastings, MN is 28 miles from the Twin Cities.

Trail length: 3.8 miles

Trail difficulty: Easy to Moderate

Admission: Admission to Afton State Park in Hastings, Minn. is $7 per day or $35 for an annual Minnesota State Park pass (unlimited visits to all state parks and recreation areas for 12 months from the month of purchase).

Winter hiking at William O’Brien State Park; Marine On St. Croix, MN

In addition to cross-country skiing trails, you can do some winter hiking or snowshoeing at William O’Brien State Park in Marine On St. Croix, Minn. The groomed 2.7-mile offers Riverside Trail Loop is an easy winter hike with beautiful views of the St. Croix River.

Distance from Twin Cities: William O’Brien State Park in Hastings, MN is 42 miles from the Twin Cities.

Riverside Trail Loop (hiking club trail) length: 2.7-mile loop

Trail difficulty: Easy  

Admission: Admission to William O’Brien State Park in Hastings, Minn. is $7 per day or $35 for an annual Minnesota State Park pass (unlimited visits to all state parks and recreation areas for 12 months from the month of purchase).

Winter hiking on Cannon Valley Trail in Cannon Falls, Minnesota

Frozen waterfalls under a bridge
One of the best winter hikes with frozen waterfalls near the Twin Cities: Cannon Valley Trail in Cannon Falls, Minnesota.

Cannon Valley Trail is one my of my recommended stops in my epic guide to the best frozen waterfalls in Minnesota. It’s also one of the best hiking trails near the Twin Cities. And offers lots of cold-weather activities such as winter hiking, x-skiing, snowshoeing, fat-tire biking, and skate skiing. Please follow the appropriate groomed hiking trails on the Cannon Valley Trail. See also their website for some seasonal closings.

Distance from Twin Cities: Cannon Falls is located 35 miles from the MSP International Airport.

Trail length: Various from a short walk to several miles.

Trail difficulty: Easy

Admission: Winter hiking on the Cannon Valley Trail is free; however, there is a fee for other winter activities.

Solitary winter hike at Caron Falls Park; Northfield, Minnesota

Frozen waterfalls and snowy day
Best winter hikes with frozen waterfalls near the Twin Cities: Caron Falls Regional Park.

Do you enjoy winter hikes where you feel like you’re the only person in the world? Then I recommend Caron Falls Regional Park hiking trail in Rice County, Minnesota. This three-mile loop / out-and-back hiking trail in a magical woodland is beautiful in the winter. And is home to a sweet frozen waterfall. See my related post: Epic guide to the best frozen waterfalls in Minnesota.

Distance from Twin Cities: Caron Falls Trail in Rice County, Minnesota (near Northfield and only three miles from Nerstrand Big Woods State Park) is 49 miles from the MSP International Airport.

Trail length: 3 miles

Trail difficulty: Easy

Admission: Admission to Caron Falls Trail in Northfield, MN is free.

Other beautiful hiking trails in Minnesota

Best winter hiking scenic views two women near Twin Cities, Minnesota John A. Latsch State Park
One of my favorite cardio hikes in the winter and in any season is John A. Latsch State Park near Winona, Minnesota. This image of my sister-in-law and me was taken two days before Christmas a couple of years ago on a relatively snow-free and warm winter hike.

You’ll find even more beautiful hiking trails outside of that 50-mile radius of the Twin Cities, such as Barn Bluff North and South Trails in Red Wing, Minn., Nerstrand Big Woods State Park (both only 52 miles away) and the very popular Taylor’s Falls (aka Interstate State Park) is 57 miles away (much closer if you’re in the north metro) and Frontenac State Park (64 miles, but closer if you’re in the south metro).

Sibley State Park Minnesota best winter and summer hiking with sunset
I captured this beautiful sunset on a winter hike at Sibley State Park on a balmy December day. While the lake was frozen over, the hiking trails were free from snow.

We’re not always covered in snow or dangerously cold in MinneSNOWta in the winter. One of my favorite winter hikes when it was relatively balmy was Sibley State Park in New London, Minn.

And when the stairs are ice-free, I highly recommend this cardio winter hike at John A. Latsch State Park. It’s only a mile-hike, but it’s several hundred steps up – and then back down. Nearby Garvin Heights Park in Winona, Minn. offers a great stair-climbing winter hike  (when it’s snow- and ice-free) with gorgeous views.

Top to-do bucket list winter hikes in the Twin Cities

Snowy hiking trail in the woods with a tree overhanging
Love discovering the best winter hikes in the Twin Cities and throughout Minnesota.

I’ve hiked several more trails in the Twin Cities during the spring, summer, and fall. So am looking forward to exploring them as part of my best winter hikes in the Twin Cities series. Until then, check out my reviews during fair-weather times.

Best winter hikes on the North Shore in Minnesota

Frozen waterfall in the forest
One of my favorite winter hikes leads to the beautiful High Falls at Grand Portage State Park on the North Shore in Minnesota.

And I especially love winter hiking on the North Shore in Minnesota. See my related posts:


Winter hiking safety tips in Minnesota

frozen stream in winter
Winter hiking tip: Ice is never 100% safe. While the majority of this creek at Minneopa State Park was frozen over, you could still see open water. I witnessed two people fall in while walking on this thin ice. Fortunately, the creek is not deep so no casualties.

While hiking in Minnesota is pretty magical, it can get dangerously cold. Here are a few winter hiking tips to help keep you safe (and warm) in Minnesota.

  • Check trail conditions and wear waterproof and warm boots with good tread, and bring along hiking poles, and metal spikes like crampons.
  • Ice is never 100% safe – must be at least 4 inches to safely walk on; if you see or hear any open water, stay off the ice!
  • See related post: Deer hunt winter hiking safety tips in Minnesota
  • Stay on the groomed trails when possible – venturing off even inches can find yourself in knee-deep snow and dangerously close to steep drop-offs (we discovered that at George Crosby Manitou State Park)
  • Watch the weather reports.
  • Let others know where you are hiking and when you’re expected to return.
  • Avoid night hiking in remote locations (the sun sets super early in the winter and temperatures drop fast; be mindful that winter hiking takes longer than normal)
  • Stay off snowmobile trails – stick to designated hiking trails to avoid any collisions, injuries, and even death

What to pack for a winter day hike

Learn what I never leave home without when going on a day hike – the best day hiking packing list – for winter or summer.

Pin it for later: Best winter hikes in and near the Twin Cities

Best winter hikes in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul Minnesota

Best winter hikes in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul Minnesota

Author

Twin Cities-based blogger sharing memorable emptynester, solo, family and girlfriend-getaway adventures, as well as my day hiking adventures (including all 66 Minnesota state parks), latest book reviews, and updates on my quest for the best adult mac and cheese. Also two WIPs: historical fiction and psychological thriller

58 comments

    1. I love a good hike – Winter, spring, summer, or fall. So many hikes near the twin cities – time to get outside.

  1. Squeee so many great options! I am a huuuge fan of frozen waterfalls so I know I would LOVE some of the Minnesota trails!

    Cold days are so much better when you get out hiking aren’t they!?

    1. They are! It took me a long time to embrace winter. But hiking definitely helps get me through the long winter months. I know you would love the frozen waterfall hikes in Minnesota!

    1. I felt the same way for many years. But I learned that if I dress appropriately, winter hiking can be a fun adventure while staying warm.

  2. These hikes look amazing. I’ve only done snowshoeing once and loved it. I prefer it to cross-country skiing.

  3. So much fun reading about the best winter hikes in and near the Twin Cities! I will share this with my cousin who lives near the Twin Cities! I live in the desert of the SW so it never really feels like winter, so I just love seeing and hearing about the magical snowy climates! One of these days I’ll head somewhere to have a white Christmas again!

  4. Wow! I love the Twin Cities and how much green space around there. But I’ve never done winter hiking in MN. Saving for a future trip!

    1. Awesome! I love our green spaces in the Twin Cities also. And loved that I discovered winter hiking in and near Minneapolis and St. Paul.

    1. It can be cold but if you dress appropriately you’ll be sweating. Winter hiking is a great way to get out and enjoy the snow months in the Twin Cities.

  5. Oh wow what a great list of winter hikes in Minnesota. I think my favourite one from your list is the frozen waterfall hike. I always find frozen waterfalls stunning. Thanks for sharing.

      1. Wow! You are so lucky to have these fabulous hikes right on your doorstep. I love hiking in winter and find winter landscapes incredibly beautiful. I would love to do the hike with the frozen waterfalls especially.

  6. Wow, those winter wonderland landscapes are just beautiful. I’m not used to hiking in the snow like that, so thanks for the tips. But for the views of High Falls at Grand Portage State Park I’d give it a try!

  7. I spent a few winters in Minnesota when I was in grad school and Minnesota winters are legit. The hiking is unbelievably beautiful and frosty cold. This is a great list of additional hikes to try when I get back to Minnesota some winter.

    1. Thank you! I only started embracing winter hikes two years ago and am a huge fan. Love all the winter hiking trails in the Twin Cities and throughout Minnesota.

  8. A fantastic selection of winter walks. I particularly like the frozen waterfalls. The High Falls at Grand Portage State Park are just stunning.

  9. The winter hike I know in the south of Spain is so different from the winter hike in Minnesota. The frozen waterfalls sounds wonderful! #flyingbaguette

  10. The winter hike I know in the south of Spain is so different from the winter hike in Minnesota – like the opposite sides of a magnet. The frozen waterfall sounds wonderful! #flyingbaguette

  11. As always, you are the hiking guru of MN! It’s so great to give people ideas on winter hikes, the winter months can be such a challenge! Well done on putting this list together!

  12. Minnehaha Waterfall and the High Falls look so amazing. Watching two people break through thin ice covering a creek would be super-scary. Glad no one died.

    It makes perfect sense to be to stay on the paths, avoid night hiking, and to let someone know where you’re going and when you’re planning on being back.

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